What kind of whiskey did the old cowboys drink?

Answered by Louis Krause

During the days of the old cowboys, the they consumed varied greatly in quality and taste. In the early mining camps, the whiskey available was often referred to as “rotgut.” This term was used to describe low-quality, cheap whiskey that had a harsh taste and lacked any kind of aging process. These whiskies were usually made from grains and corn of dubious quality or even molasses.

The production of rotgut whiskey was not a refined process. It typically involved fermenting a mixture of low-grade ingredients, which resulted in a high content. The lack of aging meant that these whiskies did not have the opportunity to mellow or develop complex flavors over time. As a result, they often had a raw, burning sensation when consumed.

One of the main issues with rotgut whiskey was the presence of fusel oil. Fusel oil is a byproduct of fermentation that contains higher alcohols, such as propanol and butanol. These compounds give the whiskey an unpleasant taste and can cause adverse effects when consumed in large quantities. The high fusel oil content in rotgut whiskey contributed to its harsh and sometimes nauseating flavor profile.

In contrast to the rotgut whiskey found in mining camps, towns like Virginia City and Tombstone had access to a wider range of alcoholic beverages. These towns were more developed, with established businesses and trading networks, allowing them to import finer whiskies and wines from other regions.

The imported whiskies available in towns like Virginia City and Tombstone were of much higher quality than the rotgut found in the mining camps. These whiskies were often aged, allowing them to develop complex flavors and smooth out any harshness. They were made from higher-quality grains and underwent a more refined distillation process.

In these towns, the old cowboys had the opportunity to enjoy whiskies that were smoother, more flavorful, and overall more enjoyable to drink. These whiskies would have had a wider range of tasting notes, including hints of caramel, vanilla, oak, and spice. They provided a more sophisticated drinking experience compared to the rough and raw nature of rotgut whiskey.

It is important to note that the availability of these finer whiskies would have depended on factors such as location, economic status, and personal preferences. Not all cowboys would have had access to or chosen to indulge in the imported whiskies. However, for those who did, it would have been a welcome change from the harshness of rotgut whiskey.

The old cowboys had a wide range of whiskey options available to them, ranging from the low-quality rotgut whiskey found in mining camps to the finer, aged whiskies imported into more developed towns. The quality and taste of the whiskey varied greatly, with the rotgut being characterized by its high alcohol content, lack of aging, and presence of fusel oil. The imported whiskies available in towns like Virginia City and Tombstone offered a more refined and enjoyable drinking experience, with complex flavors and smoother textures.